Monday, June 22, 2009

Lord Adonis Sees Demise of Short Flights - More bad news for LCY!!

Article seen in the Sunday Times:

Lord Adonis sees demise of short flightsSteven Swinford THE new transport secretary, Lord Adonis, believes a 200mph high-speed rail network in Britain will spell the end for domestic flights and short flights to Europe.

In his first interview since joining the cabinet, Adonis said the market for internal flights would collapse within the next 20 years as the train becomes the preferred mode of travel.

The proposed high-speed rail network would cut journey times from London to Manchester to 1hr 22min and Glasgow to 2hr 42min. Adonis envisages that it could use French-style TGV trains.

He said high-speed rail would also replace flights from Britain to destinations including Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Lyon and Rotterdam. He believes the rise of high-speed rail will help to cut carbon emissions and offer passengers more comfortable and enjoyable journeys than travelling by plane.

Related Links
High-speed rail line will cost public £8bn
Rail trip blog of the minister, Lord Adonis
“High-speed rail is not only important for providing additional rail capacity between our biggest conurbations. I would like to see domestic and short-haul flights largely replaced by high-speed rail over the next 20 years,” he said.

“The evidence internationally is that passengers want to have the choice of making these journeys by train rather than plane, because [trains offer] greater convenience, comfort and [are] much less hassle than going through airports. This is not about the government dictating to people how to travel, but the free choices that people make when they are offered a viable and attractive alternative to flying.”

The proposed high-speed rail network, due to be completed by 2020, would initially run from London to Birmingham and eventually extend to Manchester and Glasgow. Detailed plans are being developed by a government-backed company. Early estimates indicate that the line will cost up to £30 billion. The government will make its final policy decision in early 2010.

“We have a very exciting agenda for transport investment over the next 10 years and I believe that will be a central part of our manifesto,” Adonis said.

Rail is already gaining at the

expense of air travel. Domestic flights have been in steady decline in recent years, with the number of passengers falling from 26.1m in 2005 to 24.3m last year. The number of passengers travelling from London to Manchester by air has fallen from 1.94m in 2003 to 1.35m last year. The number of railway passengers has increased over the same period, from 2.1m to 3.3m.

According to Adonis, by 2029 many European cities will be within 3½ hours from London by train, which he sees as the tipping point at which people switch from air travel.

By the end of the year a new high-speed link from Brussels to Amsterdam will help to cut journey times from London to Amsterdam from five hours to 3½. Another new line will cut journey times from London to Cologne to four hours.

Adonis believes the success of high-speed rail in Europe will provide a template for Britain.

“Air France has stopped flying between Paris and Brussels because of high-speed rail, Lufthansa has stopped flying between Cologne and Frankfurt,” he said.

“Since the high-speed line opened between Madrid and Barcelona, the proportion of people [in Spain] travelling by train compared to plane has risen from 16% to 68%.”

The Department for Transport believes high-speed rail could reduce the number of passengers on domestic and short-haul flights at Heathrow by 9.4m, equivalent to 14% of all flights from the airport. However, Adonis remains committed to a third runway at Heathrow, insisting the extra capacity will be needed because of an increase in long-haul flights.

He wants to improve access to Heathrow by public transport, either with a high-speed rail hub or new interchanges.

“Heathrow is currently running at 99% capacity and, given the projections for long-haul traffic over the next 20 years, an increase in airport capacity in the southeast is needed,” he said.

Adonis is a self-confessed train lover rather than a motoring enthusiast. He owns a Vauxhall Vectra, which he rarely drives, while his ministerial car is a Toyota Prius.

“When I say I drive a Vauxhall Vectra, I drive it a few miles every weekend to do the shopping and take the children to their events. Virtually all my long-distance journeys are made by train,” he said.

He is, however, anxious not to antagonise the motoring public. In the interview he ruled out a national road pricing scheme, and committed the government to relieving congestion by opening up the hard shoulders on motorways to traffic, despite concerns among some motoring groups over safety. Work is under way on hard shoulder schemes on stretches of the M6, M1, M25 and M4.

“Hard shoulder running produces a big increase in capacity but at a fraction of the cost of motorway widening and much less of an environmental impact. It has no impact on safety whatsoever,” Adonis said.